I’ve always been a City Girl, so when I decided to go to a High School in the city nothing could get better in my world, of course, except for convincing my parents to buy a house downtown, and let us move. When that never happened, I moved downtown by myself four years later. I’ve been in love with this city, that is Indianapolis, for about six years now. When I announced my plans to move to the city, into an apartment on my own, the other Suburban girls didn’t understand. “Are you sure?” they asked, “The city is a scary place!”.
I’ve never seen it that way though, I find comfort in the hustle and bustle, I take peace in knowing everyone has somewhere to go, and lifes’ to live. I find encouragement in the ambulances, as they screech through the city. I see my dreams as I watch the helicopters fly through the sky. I find hope in the hospitals that surround me. I don’t feel scared in this city, I feel alive in this city.
It’s been about a year and a half since I packed up my bags, and moved downtown. In the last year and a half I’ve learned more than I ever have in my entire 19 years of life. And while I’ve never felt scared in this city, I’ve felt quite a few other things. I knew moving downtown from my suburban home, in my suburban neighborhood, surrounded by my suburban neighbors, with their suburban lifestyles, would be quite the adjustment. The four years I spent commuting to my high school helped adjust me to the views of this city, and the people it was home to, but there are some things you just can’t learn or understand by being a visitor.
I knew the day I walked out of my apartment in the dark, early hours of the morning, and without watching where I was walking, which resulted in tripping over a sleeping homeless man, that I was in for quite the ride. This city has kept me humble, forever thankful for what I have, but always reminding me to never once think I am above, and to always give when I can.
This city doesn’t scare me, and maybe it’s because I live here now and am bias, or maybe it’s because after working in EMS, constantly walking into the unknown, that you learn to fear things less, but whatever it be, I don’t leave my apartment for work and feel scared, I don’t drive through the rougher areas and feel scared, I don’t stop at gas stations and feel scared. Instead I see a growing, diverse community, with so much to offer, and teach me. Something I’ve always hoped I could someday contribute to, outside of the suburban neighborhood I grew up in. I longed for cultural diversity, and to be enhanced by my newfound neighbors who also called this city home.
This week I was reminded that the human race is innately good, that the human kind knows no such thing of hatred, or separation from birth. That these are learned traits, they are not born into us.
I had put off getting gas all week, one of my rather not so bright habits, however I’ve never run out of gas yet, so I will probably continue to push my luck. I stopped at my usual gas station on the way to work, as my gas light was on, and I had already driven 10 miles the day before with it on. I like this gas station, the gas prices are always one of the cheapest in town, they have a great selection of energy drinks, and it’s on my way TO and FROM work (imagine that!) However, if I ever took my mom or sister to this gas station they would probably be shocked that I, the tiny college girl, ever got out of my car and pumped gas here. When I sheepishly admit to gentle giant at midnight, after our twelve hour shift that my car is on E, and I’m going to the gas station, he always sighs knowing the big brother in him will demand to follow me there to make sure I’m safe. I guess we can just say it’s not the nicest one in town, or that’s what some may think.
On Wednesday I stopped at my gas station, and ran inside and got an energy drink to prepare for my twelve hour shift. However, before I made it inside the door I noticed a woman crouched down in between the ice chests. It was a strange place to sit I thought, unlike the bench and the grassy patch on the corner, where the usual regulars reside. In my flashy uniform I was quickly pulled aside by another gas station visitor who noticed my uniform happened to be of the medical field, and asked if I would check on the woman. I did, and she assured me she was okay. I continued on my way, and pumped my gas. As I did though I noticed something; every single person that walked in the door of the gas station stopped to check on the lady. People of all different races, backgrounds, and genders. They all stopped. The people on the corner who didn’t have anything to give, and were asking for themselves, even made their way over. I made my partner drive by later to check on the woman and she had left. I am not sure why she was there, and never will, but I left that day with an odd sense of comfort.
I had that ‘told ya so’ feeling inside. I wanted to call up every suburban girl that has ever asked me if I get scared living in this city, and to tell them no. I wanted to tell them that this city, my city cares. I wanted to tell them that even in some of the most beat down places of my city, they still cared, and I whole heartedly believe they do.
I don’t believe we are born knowing hatred, or fear, or separation. I believe these feelings are learned, they are not innate.
So much talk of separation has occurred lately in the news, and media, and while I type this I know so many will feel compelled to say to me ‘Merideth you are wrong, this city does not care, this city is home to a man that pulled a gun on a police officer, and proceeded to put 11 bullets through his body killing him, for no reason.’ And while you are right this city is home to such a man, I don’t believe it is this city that made him that way, that compelled him to do such an awful thing.
I just recently finished reading ‘Stronger’ by Jeff Bauman, the Boston Bombing victim who became the face off the terrorist attack, when a photo of himself with both of his legs blown off went viral. Jeff was talking about feeling anger towards the bombers, and their motivation to do such a horrendous thing, and he states referencing the bomber, “He needed to stand up, but he blew everything up instead.” and “Setting off a bomb, or shooting up a high school doesn’t make you bigger. It makes you the smallest kind of person on earth. The kind who has to face others, because you can’t face yourself.”
I do believe these people that Bauman speaks of exist in this city, I would be naive to think otherwise. I know that this world houses some cruel people, people that desire to cause pain in the lives of others. People whose hearts and minds have been opened to some of the worst traits existent on this earth, those of separation, hatred, and evil. And inevitably some of them happen to live in my city. However, I don’t believe that this city, my city cultivates such thoughts. But then again, I could be wrong. But the strangers at the gas station, the beggars on the corner, they make me think otherwise, and they give me peace of mind.
I don’t feel scared in this city, I feel alive.
So as you debate whatever it is with your friends on Facebook, and create cyclical arguments I will just leave this here. That in the midst of all the uproar, the social turmoil that is forever existent, there are always glimmers of hope, restoration in the human kind, and peace of mind if you search hard enough, do your part, and spend less time focusing on the separation, and the arguments born from hatred, and more time on the ways we can do our part to create positive environments for all in existence.
I have hope that some day we will all be able to feel alive in our cities, and not scared. Regardless of any difference that may exist in any of us.